Om Namo Bhagavade Sivanandaya
Established in 1949 by Sri Swami Sivananda
We are not tired of reiterating that the formation, growth and present status of Divine Life Society of South Africa is due entirely to the Grace of our Master, Sri Swami Sivananda. Divine Life Society of South Africa is unique in spiritual history, because it was founded by a spiritual Master who forced his disciple, in this case, Swami Sahajananda, to obey him and carry out his commands.
Regarding the activities of the Society, the Divine Master gave his assurance in his own handwriting:
"God will look after the divine work. Lord will look after everything".
Beginnings of Spiritual Life
Swamiji (Swami Sahajananda) had a very promising academic career but the Master had other devastating plans in store for him and his intervention came at the appropriate time. In the Matric exam Swamiji obtained a second class pass and, because he was annoyed with his performance, he refused a bursary offered to him to take B.Sc. at Fort Hare.
Workings of the Master's Grace
His failure in the Matric, which appeared to him as a great tragedy then, turned out to be the greatest blessing. While browsing through the books at the Vedic Bookshop in Durban, Swamiji clearly remembers picking up In the Vision of God by Papa Swami Ramdas. Closing the book and putting it back on the shelf he moved on. The next book he touched was the Master's Practice of Karma Yoga.
Even though Swamiji did not know the meaning of the words, "Karma Yoga" at that time, the book sent a strange thrill through him. Glancing through its pages he instantly realised that he had found the Guru he was searching for. He came to know that a God-realised Guru was absolutely necessary to guide and lead one to the realisation of God.
First Visit to the Master
Coming to know that the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, resided at Rishikesh, Srinivasan, as he was called then, at once wrote to him that he would like to come and stay at his Ashram to practise Yoga.
The Divine Master, knowing that it was only a kind of "bubbling enthusiasm", advised him to remain where he was and perform his spiritual practices. But Srinivasan was adamant that he should come to be with the Master at Rishikesh. So the Master allowed him to come to the Ashram, as experience is often the best teacher. The "bubbling enthusiast" forthwith resigned from the teaching profession and proceeded to India.
On reaching the Master's feet and remaining there only for a fortnight, Srinivasan's "bubbling enthusiasm" subsided at once! The Divine Master treated the young aspirant in the most unconventional manner. He asked Vishnu Swami to give him instructions on some basic Yoga postures, but Srinivasan had already learnt them from the Master's book. The only other instructions he gave were: "Learn to type and to make tea!"
Years later, Srinivasan, now Swami Sahajananda, understood that the Divine Master's cryptic words, "learn to type and make tea" were pregnant with deep spiritual meaning. It meant dissemination of spiritual knowledge through his literature, and service of the underprivileged.
Swami Sahajananda visited the Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, at Rishikesh in 1948. He returned the following year. Sri S.R. Padayachee, a great devotee of the Master from Umkomaas, had visited him a few months earlier and, on his return, was doing some work in propagating the Master's teachings. However, the Master wrote to Swami Sahajananda in 1949 to open a Branch of the Divine Life Society.
As Swamiji was very nervous and shy, he did not feel competent to take up the task. He was a young man of 24 at the time. He did not respond to the Master's instruction and kept silent. The Master wrote a second letter, dated 18th October, 1949, with the request: "Kindly start a Branch of the Divine Life Society there. I recognise you as the Secretary".
The Master was evidently impatient to get the Branch opened, for he sent a third letter before the affiliation fee could reach him, in which he commanded: "Kindly open a Branch of the Divine Life Society at once. Do some silent work". This letter was dated 11th November, 1949.
It was indeed a queer situation, with the Master, the founder of the Society in India, and his Secretary, Swami Sahajananda, in South Africa as the only member in this country. However, the drama did not end, for the Master wrote a fourth letter dated 5 June, 1951: "Kindly open a Branch of Divine Life Society and do some silent work."
Swamiji commenced the publication of a quarterly journal entitled Light, Power & Wisdom. He used to finance it himself and distribute it free, often selecting names at random from the telephone directory for his mailing list.
Soon two other devotees joined him and the three used to have their weekly Satsang at the Umgeni Road Temple in Durban. Often, when the other two failed to turn up, Swamiji used to go to the temple all alone and conduct the service. He used to go through the whole procedure of singing Kirtan, reading the Gita and performing Arati, even though there was no other soul present except himself.
When the Master was informed of this he commented, "If one is sincere many would join." This truth is evident today when thousands are following the Divine Life Society.
Search for Premises
A one-hectare site was purchased at Reservoir Hills, then a remote undeveloped suburb of Durban. The Master himself requested that another one and half hectare of adjoining land be acquired, and also instructed that a larger cylinder printing machine and a typesetting machine be purchased. This is how the present two and a half hectare site of the headquarters of the Society was developed.
In 1956, while Swamiji was in Rishikesh, the Master wished to initiate Swamiji, till then known as Sri V. Srinivasan, into the holy order of Sannyas. Swamiji was hesitant to accept the offer, thinking that he was not ready for it. However, the senior disciples at the Ashram advised that it would not be wise to refuse the Master's offer. Swamiji thus had the great good fortune of getting Sannyas from the Master on April 1956.
Dissemination of Spiritual Knowledge
The main aim of Divine Life Society of South Africa is dissemination of spiritual knowledge by means of our Divine Master's spiritual literature. Readers of our books invariably remark about their very high quality, which is enhanced further by multi-colour pictures. The Society has one of the most modern printing plants in the country, with sophisticated equipment. Printing equipment have been installed at Reservoir Hills Headquarters, Durban and at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, Sivananda Nagar, La Mercy, which is located in the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, about 30 kilometers from Durban.
Sri Gurudev Bids Farewell to Sri V. Srinivasen (Swami Sahajananda)
Rishikesh, 10 April 1956
At tonight's Satsang was celebrated a very happy function to bid farewell to a great disciple of Swamiji “Swami Sahajananda" (formerly known as Sri Srinivasan) of Durban, who would be leaving tomorrow, having stayed here for two or three months. Swami Sahajananda had his initiation into the order of Sannyasa today in Swamiji's Kutir (Sri Gurudev's Kutir), when he acquired the new name.
The function tonight was opened by Swamiji with Kirtan. This was followed by the reading and presentation of a Farewell Address to Swami Sahajanandaji. Swamiji then gave a twenty-minute speech bringing out the Divine qualities of Swami Sahajananda. Thereafter several inmates of the Ashram spoke, paying tributes to Swami Sahajananda for the various virtues he possessed. Swami Jyotirmayananda, Rev. A Thitadhamma of Thailand, Swami Krishnananda, Swami Swaroopa-nanda of Germany, Swami Venkatesananda, and Swami Prajnananda spoke in English and Swami Gurusarananda spoke in Sanskrit. Swami Santananda sang a song composed by himself in honour of Swami Sahajananda. Replying to the farewell addresses, Swami Sahajananda also gave a short speech attributing his spiritual progress to Swamiji's Grace. The function closed with Arati and dis-tribution of sweetmeats. The full text of Swamiji's speech (given extempore) is given below.
"So we rejoice today heartily, because we have amidst us a noble personality, a spiritual personality, a Bala Yogi, a Bala Swami, Sri Swami Sahajananda. Whenever a noble function takes place, the Devas are pleased. So we had a very good shower today, and now we have a cool atmosphere. So we are able to celebrate the function joyously. You may ask, "Why there is no rain of flowers?" That also there is. The Devas rain flowers.
"You may ask why Swamiji is giving Sannyasa to young people. You may say that people should take Sannyas only when all hairs have grown grey and all teeth have fallen. No. We want people at this age with great dynamism, with abundant spiritual energy. In old age one is not able to sit in one Asana for half an hour at a stretch. When all energy has been squeezed out in family-life, he is not able to sit in Padma Asana. We need young Swamis. Shankara was not an old man. Padmapada was not an old man. Young people only should take Sannyasa, for they will lead a life of fortitude and endurance. They are full of strength, full of energy. We require only young people to take Sannyasa and spread the message of Shankara in the West.
"Swami Sahajananda is styled as the spiritual king of South Africa, Durban. He is also called the African Chota Guru. He does not want anything. He is a silent worker. He is a man of renunciation, Vairagya and meditation. He is a very good organizer. He has organized some 20 branches of the Divine Life Society in South Africa. His friend Bika Chiba is also as good as Swami Sahajananda.
"There is Savikalpa Samadhi, and then comes Nirvikalpa Samadhi, and then comes Sahaja Avastha. He is established in Sahaja Avastha. He does not forget Brahman when he is working. He has got double consciousness. He is resting in his Satchidananda Swarupa and he is utilizing his mind and Indriyas for the good of humanity. He likes Sahaja Avastha. He is in Sahaja Avastha. In the scriptures you will find that any man who attempts to practice Yoga is also a Yogi and a Yogarudha, who is established in Yoga, is also a Yogi. So he who is attempting to be established in Sahaja Avastha is also a Sahaja Avastha Yogi.
"He is a strong pillar of the Divine Life Society. Yesterday Swami Jaiayalji gave a great feast for me. He asked people to bring papiyas. Then he asked me, "Will you take some milk and fruits?" I said, "Bring some fruits. I don't want milk." He asked a man to bring oranges. He brought them, and I distributed them to the people. Then I said, "I am a Rupee-eater." I am Swami Sahajandandji's rupee-eater. I want money for printing paper, art paper, for hospital, etc. Sahajanandaji supplies the money. You may think that I am exaggerating him. Maharaja Pannalalji does not have much money, but the whole of the Divine Life Society buildings he has built. If you ask him three thousand, immediately you will get it. I am the rupee eater for him also. He is more than a Maharaj. People who have plenty of money cannot give two rupees. Such a man is a kanjus Prabu (Great Miser)! Swami Sahajananda is spiritual king of Durban, a great organiser, a great supporter, a pillar of the Divine Life Society.
"He talks little. You have never seen him talking. He thinks much and does much. Such a great spiritual Yogi is he. He came some years before also and had remained here.
"He has brought out the Divine Life for Children pamphlets. He is a man of invention. In letterheads and behind the envelopes, he has printed new sayings. In letterheads also the Divine Life for Children he has brought out. He is a thinker. He has in Durban a small press for the dissemination of knowledge, and the Path to God-Realization is his magazine, running for three or four years. What more can you expect from a small boy Swami? He has done everything. He will now go with redoubled energy, charged with Himalayan vibrations and Mother Ganges Grace, and will work like a lion, Vedanta Kesari, Yoga Kesari. All these titles a man deserves when he becomes a Yogi. When a man becomes God, any number of titles are not enough. His devotion to teacher is unique. He has a pure heart. Such a Yogi is now going from here and he will thrill the whole of Africa, and again he will come. He has the spirit of renunciation. He has given his whole property to me.Just see his noble qualities, devotion, discipline, Santi Humility.
When a man comes to you and says he is a Jivanmukta, you must test him. You must ask whether he has got humility, not feigned humility, but real unostentatious humility. Then he must have compassion. If you do not find these qualities in a man who says 'I am a Jivanmukta', reject him as straw. These are the two cardinal, fundamental virtues of a sage. If you do not find these virtues, even if he delivers a lecture for days together on the verse Sarva Dharman Parityajya Mamekam Saranam Vraja, it is useless, empty, bullet-shots in the air. If you find humility, that is a sign of a Yogi, and he must be compassionate. His heart should melt like butter when he sees the sufferings of others. If he finds a starving man, and if he has got a tumbler of milk, he will run to him and give it to him.
Of all the qualities that are enumerated in the Gita, humility and compassion are the most important. He who possesses these qualities is a Yogi of the first order. These are the test of a Jivanmukta. So we all pray for his health, long life, peace and prosperity. Such a person is a rare jewel on this earth. He who is not free from selfishness is a burden on earth, but when he becomes selfless and works for relieving the human suffering, when he has dedicated his life for the service of humanity, he is a divine being on earth. Other people live in vain, they are burdens on earth. Remove this selfishness and work for the well-being of humanity, for your neighbour. Then only man is he a real man. Otherwise, though God has given promotion as a human being, he is only a horizontal being.
So try to become real men on this earth, real men, supermen, with God-intoxicated feeling always working for your neighbours. In working for other people, you elevate yourself. In praying for other people you pray for yourself. There is only one being, one consciousness. So become absolutely selfless, courageous, bold, without attachment to this body. Timid people die a thousand times before their actual death owing to attachment to this body, which is nothing but a combination of the five elements. You are really Atman, the all-pervading immortal Soul. Then you become Atma-Samrat, King on this earth. Nature is ready to open Her secrets to you and you enjoy the divine Aiswaryas when you become selfless. When you work for the good of others, you become Atma-Samrat. Such a king is this Swami. Glory to him. May all follow his example.
"He is a young Yogi; a Yoga Brashta. He was a Swami in his previous birth, so at such a young age his heart is full of renunciation, Vairagya and meditation, which are the key to open the chambers of the heart, the Atmic store. It is not so easy to get renunciation and Vairagya. That man lives in vain who has got no Vairagya, no renunciation, no spirit of selfless service. God has given you in this birth a little wisdom. Yoga and Vedanta are complimentary. There is no wisdom without Yoga. There is no wisdom without Bhakti. All are complementary. Vedanta without Bhakti is dry, and Bhakti without wisdom is not complete or perfect. So let us pray for the health, and long life of this small Yogi full of strength. One who can transform the materialistic intellect of the whole of South Africa, what tremendous influence, what tremendous purity, what tremendous Yogic power, what tremendous meditation, his spiritual aura, selfless aura!
"A selfish man cannot do anything in this world. In South Africa they call him as 'brother'. The other people have lived in vain who have not done Atmic search, who have not done Sravan, Manan and Nididhyasan or this Navavidha Bhakti to attain God.
Ayamatma Nirakarah Sarvavyapi Swabhavatah, Aham Brahmasmi, Sivoham.
"This should not be a mere utterance of a formula; it should enter your bones and heart. You must have a feeling that there is one common consciousness. That is your birthright. You must attain this. One Atma resides in all. He has attained this. Let us pray for his long life, peace and prosperity.
"Utilise every second in service, meditation, in Chanting the Name of God. Waste not a single minute. Realise Him. Live in God. Live in Brahman, and behold the whole world as your own Self. Behold! Listen! Come! There is a way to the fourth dimension. There is a way for attaining immortality. That way is Be good, do good. Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize. Seek, find, enter and rest.
"Become a great Yogi, not attached to this body, always thinking of this body. He who ever thinks of this body is a cobbler. A cobbler is not he who makes shoes, but he who always thinks of this body. You are the Atma. Do not become a blind man, a deaf man. Open your eyes and see everywhere the Self. Behind the Nama-Rupa there is Satchidananda, Asti-Bhati-Priya. This is wisdom.
"May Lord bless Swami Sahajananda with health, long life, peace, bliss and immortality. May Lord bless you all."
At a colourful ceremony at the Westville campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Sports Centre on Friday, 18 April 2008, the degree, Doctor of Theology, honoris causa, was posthumously conferred upon Swami Sahajananda.
Professor Dasarath Chetty, Head of the Department of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, paid high tribute to Swami Sahajananda. He said, "Sri Swami Sahajanandaji Maharaj was a rare and unique individual whose selfless work in the cause of social and spiritual upliftment is of historic significance. I had the honour of meeting Swami Sahajananda last year and was struck by his saintliness and humility. It was indeed a humbling experience that I will always cherish.
"On learning of his passing away on 10 December 2007, President Mbeki said, 'The Divine Life Society has stood out as one of the beacons of this country. Swami Sahajananda has dedicated his life to serve the poorest of the poor in our country.'
"Swami Sahajananda has left a legacy of compassion, humbleness and selflessness that is the historical preserve of very few. The University of KwaZulu-Natal pays tribute to his memory as a man who inspired our country."
Dr Vidyanand, co-chairman of the Society, received the Doctorate on behalf of the Society and presented an inspiring address. We quote an excerpt from the address: "Swamiji's words were very few, but his actions were many. His magnetic personality attracted many devotees who were inspired and committed to perform the various service activities of the Society. He manifested great humility, love and compassion as he served human beings of all racial, cultural and religious groups. Pujya Swamiji was equally concerned with the decline in social and other evils that have invaded our society. He lost no opportunity in disseminating the Master's sublime teachings on correct conduct and ethical values through books, framed pictures, colourful duratrans, etc. in order to transform society. He wrote, 'The writings of Swami Sivananda are unique and unparalleled in spiritual literature. The instructions are universal in appeal and intensely practical in their application and will effectively solve and dissolve all the problems and trials of daily life. Peace, the priceless commodity that you are searching for is locked within your own heart, in the Divine dwelling there in all His splendour and majesty. Search for it there and enjoy everlasting happiness.' "
On 24 June 2007, at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, in paying tribute to the six individuals who were chosen to receive the honorary doctorates, Professor Dasarath Chetty singled out Swami Sahajananda with the following significant statement: "His work is unparalleled in the history of the country".
In the speech prepared on 25 November 2007 for the Richards Bay Awards Presentation Ceremony, Swamiji wrote: "Everything that we have done is due to the Grace of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda. I have said many times that although I was not qualified to do this work, the Master forced me to start the Divine Life Society and made me its first secretary. It was an unusual situation, the chairman was the Master in Rishikesh, India, the secretary here in South Africa, and no other members! The formation, growth and present status of Divine Life Society of South Africa is entirely due to his Grace. So, I gladly accept these most prestigious awards on his behalf. These awards will give inspiration to our devotees to continue their service activities with greater zeal and enthusiasm."
Divine Life Society of S.A. expresses its sincere thanks to the University of KwaZulu-Natal for recognizing Swami Sahajananda as an educationist and a humanitarian who has made a significant contribution to our country by conferring the degree, Doctor of Theology, honoris causa upon him. Swami Sahajananda's spirit lives on and his work will continue.
Sri Swami Sahajananda, Spiritual Head of Divine Life Society of South africa, was born in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Estcourt on 10 July, 1925. His pre-monastic name was V. Srinivasan. Although he had a promising academic career and was keenly interested in sports and games, the young teacher had a strong yearning to lead the spiritual life, as he found his mind tormented by turbulent thoughts. Coming to know that for success in such an endeavor a Guru was very necessary, he began to yearn for one.
One day, visiting a bookshop in Durban that dealt with Vedic literature, he happened to glance at a book entitled, Practice of Karma Yoga. Its author was none other than the great Sage of India, Sri Swami Sivananda.
Even though Srinivasan did not know the meaning of the words, "Karma Yoga" at that time, the book sent a strange thrill through him. Glancing through its pages, he instantly knew that he had found the Guru he was searching for. He was fascinated to discover that spiritual life can not only purify the mind but grant one God-realisation as well. Henceforth, God-realisation became the goal of his life.
He at once lost all interest in his academic career in which he was highly ambitious. He also lost interest in sports and games which he loved so much. He corresponded with the Master and began following his instructions. On his first visit to the Master in 1948, the only instruction received from the Master was "Learn to type and make Tea." On his return to South Africa, he took up a post at the FOSA TB settlement, teaching at the school and serving the sick. In 1949, he received the Master's instruction to start a branch in this country.
In 1956, on his second visit to the Master, he was initiated into the holy order of Sannyas, with Swami Sahajananda being his monastic name.
One of the cornerstones of Swamiji's spiritual life was his total obedience and dedication to the Master. On his return to South Africa, he continued the Master's work at a vigorous pace. Dissemination of the Master's spiritual literature was uppermost on his priority list. Swamiji worked tirelessly printing the Master's books to the last days of his life, and was an expert editor, typesetter, printer, book binder, etc. He always ensured that the Master's books were of the highest quality.
Alongside this, Swamiji began building projects for the underprivileged in the province. These projects included schools, clinics, children's homes, creches, low cost housing, peace & skills training centres, etc. From 1974 until his Mahasamadhi on 2007, Swamiji completed over 300 such projects.
All the while, as such work continued, the Master's Grace and guidance could be felt at every step. On the spiritual side, many devotees flocked to the Mission, engaging in spiritual practices and Sadhana outlined by the Master and Swamiji such as attending regular Satsangs, Meditation, Japa, etc. Karma Yoga formed an important part of Gurudev's "Yoga of Synthesis". Over the years, countless devotees engaged in selfless service, assisting Swamiji in various aspects of the work. The spectrum ranged from printing and working in the press to building, serving at the clinic, cleaning, cooking meals for the poor, etc.
To this effect, Swami Sahajananda worked tirelessly for 58 years serving his Master, and the people of South Africa. He attained Mahasamadhi on 10 December 2007 after a short illness. Thousands made the journey to Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills, to pay their final respects to one who left such a deep impression on the lives of so many. Tributes poured in from all corners.
The Master's Personality
The Master was simple and childlike in his attitude, yet he had the bearing of an ancient sage. He prostrated to saints and scavengers and bowed to stones, bricks and donkeys. He addressed even little children with courtesy. He respected the rights of animals and showed them extreme love and compassion.
Divine wisdom flowed from the Master's lips in a continuous stream. His powerful, inspiring thoughts influenced people all over the world. Such was his unparalleled literary charity that most of his books were given away free.
In his own lifetime, the Master received the homage of saints and holy men, of ministers and politicians, of philosophers and doctors, of film stars and cultural artists.
We relate an incident that brings home to us graphically the essence of the Master's teachings and his inner vision of God. Once, the monks avoided a certain path that led to the alms-house. The Master discovered that en route was the cottage of a sick monk who suffered from the dreaded cholera. He at once went and nursed the ailing monk. And he chided the monks: "You all came here to seek God. God in the form of a sick monk is in a dying state, yet you have not the heart to see God in him and serve him". Such was the Master's vision!
The Master was an optimist. A negative attitude had no place in him. Every word he uttered, every sentence he wrote, was charged with a rare spiritual power, because he taught what he himself practised in his daily life. This was the outstanding feature of his personality.
The Divine Master radiated peace and serenity because he was himself filled with the peace and serenity of God. He radiated love because he was filled with the love of God. He shed the light of joy because his heart was filled with the light of God. His practical life taught us that we, too, can realise God in and through life, without having to resort to caves and jungles. His life was a perfect example of the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
The gift of divine knowledge occupied a unique place in the Master's heart. He reasoned thus: Give food to the hungry, and after a while they will be hungry again. Give clothes to the naked, and very soon they will be in need again. Give money to the needy, and when they have spent it, they will be in want again. But give divine knowledge to all, and you would have provided them the wherewithal to take care of themselves.
The all-merciful Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda merged in God on July 14, 1963, leaving behind numerous followers all over the world to spread his great gospel of love and service.
Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the world-renowned Self-Realisation Fellowship, and author of the famous spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, paid a glowing tribute to the Master during the Master's own lifetime:"The life of the great Rishi, Swami Sivananda, serves as a perfect example of selfless activity. He blesses India and the world by his presence".